If you’re on a modern Mac that you also plan to keep updated and you want to play Civ IV, are there any good options if you don’t want to “subscribe to a service” (Steam) or deal with Windows (either buy a PC or virtualize Win on a Mac)?
Not for Civ IV, no. Civ IV is 32-bit only, so does not work on modern Mac hardware or macOS.
An alternative would be to reactivate an old 2013 MBP. That ran Mojave which IIRC is the last macOS to support 32 bit.
I seem to recall though that Civ 4 ran better on High Sierra. Wonder how painful it would be to downgrade that Mojave install to HS. Nuke and pave would work obviously, but being able to preserve all user data and settings would be much easier.
I checked Steam, GOG, and the App Store, and it seems like Civ IV is stuck at 32-bit. I would suggest either using a Windows emulator or moving to Civ V or Civ VI.
It would probably be better to install High Sierra in a virtual machine and run the app from there.
Thanks, @jcenters. Part of the reason for this thread was the realization after purchasing both that IMHO Civ V and VI ruined the game.
As I wrote initially, I don’t want to have to deal with Win just to play a game. Now I would go emulation if it allowed me to play Civ IV on current Apple Silicon. But seeing as that won’t happen—at least right now, I might as well bite the bullet and resurrect an older Intel Mac to play on a 32-bit macOS.
Now just trying to figure out which macOS that will be and how much of a pain it will be to get that up and running. This is just for fun on a long flight, not something I would put much effort into. Not enough time as is.
What about Codeweavers’ CrossOver? It exists to run Windows programs on other operating systems without Windows. Their compatibility reports about Civilization indicate that Civ IV has worked well for people. The Mac system compatibility says CrossOver works on Intel or Apple Silicon Macs.
CrossOver is a commercial, supported product based on the free and open source project, Wine (which stood for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”). There is a Mac version of Wine, you could try that first. However, back when CrossOver was new, my understanding was getting Wine to work on a Mac was so painful that using CrossOver was the only realistic option. Codeweavers does contribute back to the Wine project so maybe Wine itself is better on a Mac now.
If you’re okay with virtualization, just not of Windows, you could run Linux in a virtual machine and use Wine there to run the Windows version of Civ IV. Steam also might have a Linux native version of Civ IV. However, if by “modern Mac” you mean one with Apple Silicon, there might be some stumbling blocks running Wine or Steam on ARM-based Linux.
I don’t know anything about Civ IV, but I did come across https://www.applegamingwiki.com recently, which is specifically about gaming on Apple Silicon Macs. They have a page with a little more information about Civ IV. Also some information about CrossOver and Parallels, and a fairly active Discord server.
Thank you, @cwilcox. At work I used to use Wine a lot both on Linux and macOS. Unfortunately, on the Mac side that got a lot less with the transition to Apple Silicon, on Linux I still use it daily. As a Wine replacement on the Mac side at work I have actually used CrossOver rather extensively. It is a bit cumbersome, but on Intel it worked really well (once it worked).
Unfortunately, again on Apple Silicon not quite as much. And then — at least the way we run it at work — it requires basically a yearly renewal in order to stay updated and (perhaps more importantly) stop all the incessant nagging. That IMHO pretty much makes it a de facto subscription service. And in my world that’s yuck. Now, if there were reports of Win Civ IV working well on CrossOver on Apple Silicon (thanks for that link, @ashley), I should probably reconsider that stance. But for now it indeed looks like 32bit Mac is still the easiest way forward. Nothing against that in principle, except of course that it would be a whole lot nicer if there were a solution that integrates on a modern Apple Silicon Mac. Keeping my eyes peeled.
If you need/want to keep it up to date and you expect to keep using it for a long time, then the lifetime support version may be worth the money. $500 is a lot more than $75, but it will pay for itself in 7 years.
Since you already have experience with the product, you are probably in a good position to determine whether or not it is worth the high up-front cost to avoid any future payments.
Downgrading with settings intact I do not think is possible.
The best strategy for getting High Sierra up and running is to make a second partition on the MBP. A clean High Sierra will use 15 GB as far as I remember. Check what the game requires and if it uses disk cache, but I guess 100 GB would work. You also would need to consider how much free space you need to keep Mojave running. If this is workable depends on how much free space you have on your mac.
Another solution might be a fast external disk with High Sierra.