I remember playing the first Medieval. I fell in love with it in about an hour, until I ran into a soundblaster related bug that lagged out the game to an unplayable degree. The bug was never resolved. Somehow, I missed out on Rome and got back into the series with MII. I played it almost exclusively for about a year. I cannot for the life of me understand the thinking behind the changes that occured for empire management for ETW without addressing the AI. It seems that the only requirement that the design team has is an improvement in graphic detail without a corresponding improvement in gameplay. Although I will concede that perhaps they thouht that the empire management in ETW was an improvement.
I've been playing Total War games since the very first demo of Shogun Total War (the one with the single archer trying to kill as many men as possible) and I've felt that CA on the whole has failed to realize the potential of their concepts.