Is there any version of the game Civilization that will run reasonably well on a mid-2011 13" MacBook Air (1.7 gHz core i5; 4GB RAM) that shipped with Lion but now runs Mountain Lion?

PowerPC software won't run on Lion or Mountain Lion, and the graphics performance might preclude the latest releases, but is there any version modern enough to work with Lion/Mountain Lion but old enough that the graphics on an MBA will handle it?


7 Answers 7


I have the same generation MBA. You don't specify 11 or 13 inch, and that makes a potential considerable CPU difference, but on my 11" 1.6Ghz 4Gb RAM Air I have played Civilization V just fine. Slows down a little as the game progresses, but looks good and plays perfectly acceptably to me.

  • 1
    Thanks, and thanks for the tip about specs. It hadn't occurred to me that would matter; I wouldn't have thought it was CPU constrained.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 18:01
  • 1
    Oh yeah, very CPU constrained, especially on larger maps late in the game. I first played Civ V on a PC with an Athlon X2 that wasn't really up to it. Time between moves could go from 5 seconds to a minute at the start and end of the same game.
    – stuffe
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 19:42
  • 1
    But wow, it's a lot of fun, even with the waiting!
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 16:44
  • 1
    Yeah, hit me up on steam for a game sometime :)
    – stuffe
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 17:22
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    I need to learn how to do that, stuffe. But it sounds like fun. I'm not particularly good, but I'd enjoy that anyway.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 17:51

Civilization V works great on my MacBook Air. I run full-resolution (1440x900) with graphics set to middling levels.


I ran Civ IV & V on a 2008 White MacBook with the old Intel card, so I highly doubt that the latest Air won't be able to handle it. I know on V the diplomacy screens would crash, but I think that was related to the version of the game I had, because it worked fine on my newer machines after an update.

My best advise, try. There is no harm in installing it and giving it a shot.

  • Well, the harm is buying it, then not being able to use it. But I might try. Thanks for the tip.
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 17:59
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    @DanielL Keep an eye out for specials. I bought mine through Steam on a promotion for $10. MacGameStore also often have sales on the Civ titles. Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 18:04

About the graphics of the Macbook Air

The Macbook Air mid 2011 has Intel HD 3000 graphics. These are basically the same as the integrated graphics of the Macbook Pro models, but run on lower frequencies.

Due to their low power consumption, the MBA's CPU is referred to as an Ultra Low Voltage processor:

  • ULV processors core ix-2xx7 with Intel HD 3000 graphics (base freq. 350MHz, turbo 900-1000MHz)

The same Intel HD 3000 graphics of higher end models run between 650MHz and 1200MHz.

Civilization 5

You can carefully compare benchmarks that have been run on Macbook Pro models using integrated graphics only. But you need to be aware of the resolution used as it can significantly affect the max fps during gameplay.

enter image description here

Benchmarks submitted at Notebookcheck.net (see picture) suggest that Civilization 5 cannot be played. The human eye can distinguish between up to 12 fps - which is lower that what this benchmark shows - but the fps go down during intensive gameplay.

Civlization 1-4 and Conclusion

  • We can rule out Civilization 5 and 1, 2 (too old). Which leaves us with Civilization 3 and 4.

  • Civlization 4 can be played very well on a MBP 2011 with the 2.3 GHz i5 CPU as this video proves.

Civilization 4 and the less resource demanding version 3 should provide acceptable gameplay.

  • 1
    Great answer, but in practice, I can tell you now that Civ V does indeed run reasonably well (for some definition of reasonably) on my machine.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 16:46

I have the same machine (MBA'11, i5 processor, 4G RAM, 256G SSD) and have played Civ5 too.

This game runs well on my Air, but with two points worth notice.

  • Air gets hot quickly, so the fan cries very loudly during the gameplay.
  • The delay between rounds is acceptable at the beginning, when using a basic setting. However the delay might be much longer with a larger map, more players, and after many rounds.

I have a 2010 MacBook Air and it works fine. You have Intel integrated graphics, but the HD 3000 is not like the older Intel graphics, this one is good (it's better than my Nvidia 320M, which is officially supported).

  • What version of Civilization are you talking about?
    – gentmatt
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 17:28

The answer is no, according to the System Requirements of Civilization V, IV and III. Intel integrated graphics are not supported across the board according to the system requirements listed on Aspyr's website for the various versions of the game, however they don't say it does not work with your particular version of Intel Ingrated Graphics the "Intel HD Graphics 3000" So it may be the case that it might not work well and if there are problems they will not help you directly. So proceed at your own risk!

Minimum System Requirements for Sid Meier’s Civilization® V: Campaign Edition

Operating System: 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard)
CPU Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo (Dual-Core)
CPU Speed: 2.4 GHz
Memory: 2 GB
Video Memory (VRam): 256 MB
Hard Disk Space: 6GB
Video Card: ATI Radeon 2600 / NVidia Geforce 8600
Peripherals: Macintosh mouse and keyboard

Recommended System Requirements

CPU Processor: Intel Quad Core
CPU Speed: 2.6 GHz
Memory: 4 GB
Video Memory (VRam): 512 MB

Supported Video Cards

NVIDIA GEFORCE 8600, 8800, 9600, GT 120, 320M, 330M
ATI RADEON HD 2600, HD 3870, HD 4670, HD 4850, HD 5670, HD 5750, HD 5770, HD 5870, HD 6750

Languages: English, French and German

NOTICE: Intel integrated video chipsets are not supported.(GMA 950 Mac Mini (2006,2007), iMac (2006), MacBook (2006,2007), GMA X3100, MacBook (2007, 2008), MacBook Air(2008))
NOTICE: This game is not supported on volumes formatted as MacOS extended (Case Sensitive)

And Civilization II is too old to be able to run on an Intel mac according to some Civilization fanatics.

Mac OS 7.5.3 or later
CD-ROM drive
Color monitor
Open transport required for multiplayer option

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