This article is not considered accurate for the current version of the game. Its status was last updated for Vanilla.
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Brunei is a Malayan sultanate in Indonesia.
Brunei can form Malaya.
Brunei, as well as other large states with Malayan culture (Aceh, Majapahit, Malacca) are capable of forming the Malayan nation. The strategy for all of them is somewhat similar, and should work always bar some unfortunate random events.
State of the Union
In 1444, there are no friends in Indonesia and Malaysia: all countries are hostile or declare rivalry shortly after the game starts. There's little point to seek alliances with any of them - swift conquest is the only way forward. The big players are Aceh, Majapahit, Brunei and Malacca. Makassar is a rich OPM out of the way. On the mainland, Ayutthaya holds two provinces with Malayan culture and Sunni religion, which can be claimed later. The rest of the world is not of concern (for now) for this distant corner of civilization.
To form the country, the territory of any two of the three countries (Aceh, Malacca and Brunei) must be owned, as well as the portion of Java not colonized in the 1444 start. Owning Majapahit or Makassar lands is not a requirement, but since they have zero possibility of forming meaningful alliances, they can be crushed in due time.
The Conquest of Malaya
First, claims. Aceh and Makassar are the only possibilities to forge a claim for Brunei in the beginning. There's no need to fabricate more than one claim for Aceh provinces, for reasons that will be clear shortly. Makassar should be vassalized as soon as possible, and in the meantime, some additional forces should be recruited. Ideally, a force of 12-13 units should be sufficient. Investment in cogs is crucial early on, to haul the troops around the islands and not be crushed while the expeditionary force awaits reinforcements.
As soon as Makassar is vassalized, Aceh can be attacked. With some luck and a skilled general, Brunei should prevail (albeit only barely), and can occupy most of the island until Aceh agrees to their demands. Which should be a combination of provinces that allows vassalization of Aceh in a subsequent war after the truce expires. More importantly, at least one province should be claimed that allows fabricating claims on Malacca (one of Palembang, Siak or Riau). None of these provinces can be cored yet, since Brunei has very short colonial range, so it's important not to take more than is necessary to minimize overextension.
Vassalize Malacca (they most likely have smaller army than Aceh, so this should be easier), fabricate another claim for Aceh to have a reason to attack them, and start thinking about integrating Makassar. If there's a Diplomat adviser available, that will speed up the process significantly. Improve relations with Malacca, they will become dissatisfied with their dependent status as they rebuild their forces since they are almost as powerful as Brunei. Good relations with Ayutthaya are preferable to keep them on your good side, just in case. They will be outraged when Malacca is annexed, and with their allies command larger force than Brunei can muster at this point.
When the truce with Aceh expires, vassalize them and sell them the provinces previously claimed from them. Keep your forces strong to avoid dissatisfaction, and annex them together with Malacca as soon as possible.
With that, the goal is almost complete. What remains is colonizing Java and optionally subduing Majapahit. Since it's not possible to fabricate a claim to Majapahit (the only possible province is their capital; however, they can forge claims themselves to Brunei), there needs to be a colony adjacent to them in order to attack them.
On the technology side, it's crucial to get the first national idea as soon as possible, so all administrative points should go towards that instead of coring. Withhold investment in diplomatic technology and spend the points instead for the first two ideas in Exploration idea group to allow colonizing of Java and forming Malaya.
With some luck, Malaya can be formed in 40 years or so, with all island nations fully annexed by 1490.
Westernizing as Bruinei/Malaya is actually relatively easy to do. Should you go with Exploration and Expansion as your first two idea groups, you can "island hop" slowly across the ocean until you hit Africa. By the time you reach Africa, Spain or Portugal more than likely already has a presence on the continent, and by colonizing next to one of their provinces you can begin your westernization. Similarly, instead of island hopping you can always become buddy-buddy with Swahili and ask for fleet-basing access.