Now see, I *am* a person that likes it when the AI can beat me, especially if it's not cheating.
One of the reasons I enjoy games like GalCiv 2, Shogun Total War, & Medieval Total War is because the computer actually has a chance of defeating me. Maybe my views are in the minority, but I love strategy games where I actually have a chance of losing to the AI -- I find a genuine challenge to be a lot more fun than games where I know I'm probably going to win.
Yeah I am same way- I like challenging AI , but for a few rar exceptions (galciv2 on suicidal and Civ on emperor/deity) I never encountered good AI- and those are good only for sole reason of immense cheating (btw I never beat civ4 on deity -it is just crazy how many bonuses it gets- like 4 settlers on 1st turn vs yours 1). Total War series are great but I always thought AI there is very weak (both strategicaly and tactically) .
My point was that balancing is often made on "average" players. And average players are not really good at all. So they make AI, let some casual players play it and then balance it according to their feedback. In the end we have retarded AI everywhere since there is no push for good AI