How To Play Civilization 5 On Your Mac With WineBottler

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Hello, gentle reader. Since the publishing of this post, Aspyr has ported Civilization 5 to Mac OS X. That means you can just Buy Sid Meier’s Civilization V for Mac OSX on Amazon. The information that follows is left intact for historical purposes.


The following how to was written for Intel Macs running Mac OS 10.6. It will probably not work if either of those two prerequisites are not met. The test machine is a 2.4ghz Macbook Pro with a GeForce 8600M GT and 4gb of RAM. Your mileage, as always, may vary.


The advances in virtualization software in the past 5 years have made it possible to enjoy PC-only games on your Mac legally, even new releases, without needing to install Windows. Leading the Windows virtualization push is a project called Wine. Wine is an open source project, and as is so often the case it suffers for lack of a user interface, which can make it a non-starter for those who prefer not to use the command line. But from the wasteland there comes a developer named Mike Kronenberg, who has created a Mac OS X native application called WineBottler.

WineBottler handles the deeply unpleasant process of creating a Windows virtualization space for applications (called a Bottle. Get it?) on your Mac with minimal fuss for the user. Using WineBottler I was able to install Steam, purchase Civilization 5, install the game and play it in about the same amount of time it would’ve taken on a native Windows computer. Here’s how.

Step 1: Hit The Bottle

Installing WineBottler is as simple as installing any other Mac OS X application. Go to the WineBottler website, and download the Disk Image. Once it’s downloaded, mount the disk image and drag WineBottler to your Applications folder. Once WineBottler has been copied to your Applications folder, double-click the icon to launch it. It’ll look something like this:

Your window won’t have the extra entries in the right pane that mine does, which are Bottles I’ve made in the past. Don’t panic. To create your “Bottle” for Civilization 5, click the Create Custom Prefixes item in the sidebar on the left. This screen is a little less friendly, but don’t worry, we’ll be out of it soon. For now hide or minimize the WineBottler window, as there’s something we have to do first.

Step 2: Steam

Steam is the distribution platform that Civilization 5 uses. If you want to play Civilization 5 legally, the only way to do it is through Steam. Lucky for us, Steam is free. Go to Steam’s download page, and click the link that reads “also available for Windows” to download the installer. Once it’s downloaded, open up your WineBottler window then click and drag the SteamInstall.msi file onto text field labeled Install File. You don’t have to change anything else on this screen, so click the Install button in the bottom right.

A Save As box will drop down from the WineBottler window. Type in Steam PC for the name, for the Where field select your Applications folder then click Save. WineBottler will start installing Steam. Soon you’ll see the Steam installation window, and if you’ve ever used a PC before then you’ll know what to do. If not, it is simple: Just keep clicking Next in the bottom right of the screen, and eventually click Finish. The WineBottler window and progress bar will stay on screen while Steam installs and runs for the first time, so don’t freak out if it won’t leave.

Once Steam updates (it does so automatically on it’s first launch), go ahead and close the Steam login window. This will let WineBottler know that Steam installed correctly and we don’t need to see WineBottler’s window anymore. WineBottler will prompt you as to which Executable you’d like to run when your launch your Steam PC application. From the menu select steam.exe and click OK.

Step 3: Try The Demo and Buy Civ 5

Now that we’re all done with WineBottler, just go to your Applications folder and double-click the icon labeled Steam PC. You can log in to Steam or create a Steam account form there, and buy Civ 5 or download the Demo just like any other user. Once the game is downloaded it will take awhile to install, primarily the portion where the installer is fetching DirectX. This can take up to 10 minutes, and you might worry that your app has frozen. It hasn’t.

When it comes time to launch Civ 5, select the DirectX 9 option. When the game launches the window will be complete white for a minute or two due to some weirdness with the introduction video. This is totally normal, so don’t panic. After about one minute of the white screen you’ll see the game’s welcome screen and be well on your way to getting your ass handed to you by Montezuma.

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  1. Very interesting. I had no idea Wine had achieved such stability.

    I am afraid I will have to try this, despite knowing what a strain it is to resist Civilizations productivity draining spells.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t believe it myself.

  3. I went ahead and I was very impressed with Wine Bottler. This is indeed very convenient. Just a couple of clicks and Steam ran just brilliant. The only quirk though was that I did try to copy the downloaded game over from my Bootcamp partition – turns out you can just copy your steamapps folder – but Wine Bottler sneakily hid the C Drive not only in the clickable ‘bottle’ bundle it made, but also in an Application Support folder. Once I found the right folder that did work out quite well.

    Unfortunately I did get a number of graphical glitches and flashes on my Mac Pro with an ATI HD graphics card. I’ll keep an eye on http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=version&iId=21465 and see what settings people figure out work the best.

  4. Lukehardisty says:

    i have pc civ 5, is there anyway for me to use steam to play it on my mac?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yep, just follow the tutorial and you’ll be able to install and play Civ 5 just fine. Since your copy is already registered with Steam it won’t be a problem.

  6. Mrkylejohnson says:

    I get as far as the white screen following all directions perfectly but the white screen just stays up never going to the start screen even after 15 minutes. The top menu far is still visible and I eventually have to click out of X11to get back to the desktop. I have a new imac if that helps at all. Any ideas to what may be the problem?

  7. Guest says:

    Everything worked perfectly until opening Steam for the first time. It said that i needed an internet connection, but I am obviously connected to the internet. Any ideas for help?

  8. Try disabling the introduction video. Go to your Documents folder and check for a My Games folder (Wine Bottler automatically uses your Mac Documents folder for ‘My Documents’ in Windows). Then open up the “Sid Meier’s Civilization 5” folder and edit UserSettings.ini. Set SkipIntroVideo = 1.

  9. Doulasnash says:

    Just I quick question I got the everything to to work perfectly the first time I steam installed the game downloaded and played from the steam menu. the only problem was I couldn’t get steam to up back up instead I got an x11 command prompt screen. So what am I doing wrong so I don’t have to keep redoing the process over and over again

  10. Mrkylejohnson says:

    Did that and now the game wont open from steam, I hit play demo and then it says loading civ but nothing happens after that…

  11. Okay, then I don’t know. Actually it works for me with or without the intro movie, but the intro movie does show up as white blankness so I figured it could have been the source of your problem.

  12. anonymous says:

    When I try to open steam after installing it into applications nothing happens. It allowed me to create a login which worked because I received a confirmation e-mail. There is a loading steam box and then it just closes along with the whole program leaving just the X11 program running, any ideas?

  13. Rsabartes says:

    Hi Phil, first of all thanks for your efforts doing accessible Civ 5 to all mac users. When I start the demo the characters of the letters are illegible. And after discovering what are each one of the options on the menu , is not possible to start playing because the game seems to be blocked just after the presentation of the civilization I’ve selected. I’ve this problem with both ways of playing demo that offers Steam (with or without DirectX). Thanks.

  14. Philoallen says:

    I’m having the same problem, so it’s not just you, but I don’t know what to do about it.

  15. anonymous says:

    Also followed directions exactly and does not actually do anything when launching the created application. I have set Steam.exe and bin/x64launcher.exe as the startup apps, none of them work.

    Sadly, this seems to be my normal experience with Wine.

  16. anonymous says:

    OK, just in case others may have the same issue. I had to update to the latest version of Wine (I think the version bundled with WineBottler in the combo from the link above is not the latest. Now at least Steam is launching and trying to log into the account.

  17. anonymous says:

    So, with the updated wine, Steam PC will run. It will download the civ V demo. It will start and take the 10 minutes to download Direct X 9. The full white screen comes up, and then an error dialog presented by X11, stating that the program has encountered a serious error and must close. No “My Games” folder is created to contain the setup.

  18. That’s interesting – I used the version of Wine bundled with WineBottle and that did work for me without any additional updates. However, perhaps updating Wine can help with the remaining graphical glitch I have. How did you update Wine?

  19. Vlad says:

    same problem as below… everything worked just fine from an install point of view – but it stays at the “complete white screen” (and I waited > 30 min.). any ideas?

    same hardware spec as above (macbook pro, 8600m GT, 4 GB ram)…

    how is the performance (especially after like 70, 80 turns?) and what quality settings are being used?

    Thanks Vlad

  20. Rosie2000 says:

    i don’t know my mac’s specs (i got a mac because i’m computer illiterate), but will Civ 5 work on my macbook circa 2009? If not, I guess i’ll continue to go out and see people. Sigh.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Yep, I’m personally using a MacBook Pro that I got nearly 3 years ago and it’s running just fine. It gets chuggy in the late game, but if you switch to the tactical view it runs great.

  22. Ian123 says:

    everything worked out except for the fact that when the game begins everything is grey, you can only see the menu and maps but nothing more….

  23. Chris says:

    Ian did you ever get a response or fix? I’ve got the same issue.

        1. fix says:

          You have to set the terrain settings to medium. Worked well for me exept for lagging.

  24. Chris says:

    I’ve had the same issue at Ian123. I was able to create the Steam app, Install Civ, and it loads, however the map is all greyed out and I can’t see any of the units. Anyone find an answer to this?

  25. Cherokee Jack says:

    I tried this and everything worked fine until I launched the game, the white scream came up as its supposed to but it has been there for the last 10 minutes and is still there.

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