Civ II – Found the Disc, Can’t Use the Disc

After some searching tonight I found at least one of my copies of Civilization II.  It was hiding in a generic white disc sleeve on a shelf with some music CDs.

Civilization - 16-bit Era Disc

Unfortunately, this disk is from the stone age.  Look at it.  “IBM/Compatibles” is printed on it.  How long has it been since it was IBM and Compatibles?

Sure, Windows 95 was out when this game launched… barely… so this disc had to install on Windows 3.1.

All of the executables on it are 16-bit.

And, as I found out after an hour or so of screwing around and trying to fool it into believing it was installed, the 64-bit version of Windows 7 is not at all down with 16-bit.  I couldn’t find anything official on the Microsoft support site that definitively said, “No 16-bit,” but I found plenty of unofficial things that said it wasn’t going to happen.

Not that I am totally surprised.  I was doing WinLogo certification for the company I was working for in 1997, and even then you had to get a special exemption to have 16-bit executables… including the installer… on your disc.  That was a long time ago.

Anyway, no Civ II for me right now.  I’ll have to go find a more recently rolled version of it.

In the mean time, since there was some discussion over the best version of Civilization, I will put up a poll.

Justify your pick in the comments, if you feel the need.


26 thoughts on “Civ II – Found the Disc, Can’t Use the Disc

  1. pkudude99

    I vaguely remember Civ1. Loved it, but loved Civ2 more. Also loved Civ3. TBH, can’t remember if it was Civ2 or Civ3 that I spent most of my time playing — think it was 3, actually.

    Liked Alpha Centauri, but it never quite grabbed me like Civ2/3 did.

    Now that I have Civ5, I find I really do love it, so I voted Civ5 as my favorite of them.


  2. John Gerritse

    If you have Windows 3.1 and DOS 6.2(2) lying around, you could try installing both on a virtual machine and then install Civ2 on that.

    Aaaahhhh, Civ2. Can’t count the hours I’ve played that one. Awesome.


  3. Azuriel

    It’s not fair to the other games for having Alpha Centauri on the list.

    I enjoyed early Civ games, played AC to death, to death, and haven’t been particularly keen on traditional Civ games since. I could not even tell you why it gripped me so. Maybe I’m just outrageously bored of spending 85% of my total play time in pre-Industrial times, even though AC has its analogs.

    Value was wise not to include AC on Steam, lest they forever cripple all future game sales in every genre.


  4. Loque

    I still remember my very first experience with Civilization 1 in the year 1991.. .I feel old, man. It was a blast. I could reload the map multiple times looking for the best starting location (rivers, food, resources, …). I was a proud owner of a slow 8088 IBM-compatible pc.


  5. bhagpuss

    I went to the poll looking for a “Never Played Civilization” option but there wasn’t one.

    I never played Civilization. Any version. I believe the only game of remote similarity I ever played was the original version of Sim City, which held my attention for a total of maybe 8 hours over a couple of months.

    I’m not averse to trying these kinds of games but I can’t imagine ever having the time and not having something else I’d rather do. Maybe when I retire…


  6. ElMilo

    Have you tried copying the CD over to one of your HDD and running DOSbox to install it – I’ve managed to get Conquest of the new world, Transport Tycoon Deluxe and Crusader no regret to work like this… Might be worth trying – If none of this works, you can always try Good Old Games (!


  7. gwjanimej

    Civ V for me, but only because it feels more accessible than 4. I was playing Sim City and Alpha Centauri when Civ II was big, so I don’t know the glory of it, although I have heard many ‘one more turn..’ stories.

    As for your issues, if your PC will read the disc, and you’ve bought a game from that came with DOSBOX, you can probably run it inside of DOSBOX.


  8. Kevin Brill (@kevinbrill)

    Hmmm…is a Win3.1 virtual machine an option?

    We played the crap outta Civ in college in the early 90’s. Civ II was a nice update, and I had a good time with AC, but nothing beats the original running in all its DOS 6.2 glory…

    Oh, and don’t forget to throw in Colonization. Every game, I never forgave the first European power to start trading guns to the Native Americans…


  9. smakendahed

    Have you tried running it in compatibility mode? You should be able to right click on the short cut/EXE, select Properties, Compatibility tab and make it executed in Windows 95 mode. I’ve got a feeling 3.1 is a little too old so it may or may not work.

    You might need some sort of DOS box/Slo-mo app to help make it run and run at a suitable speed.


  10. Doug

    I loved Civ2 just as much as anyone. But you know what I think about even more wistfully nostalgic than the game? The manual. THAT was a work of art.


  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Smakendahed – 64-bit Windows 7 will not run 16-bit apps under any of the compatibility mode options. I hand installed the app on my drive. This was 1996 and a CD-ROM was huge back then, so nothing was compressed. But none of the executables would run regardless of compatibility settings. You get an error telling you that you need the 32 or 64 bit version of your application.

    That is when I went to the Microsoft site. There were a lot of questions there about 64-bit Windows 7 running 16-bit apps and no good answers. Official answers were vague. Other people reported, consistently, 100% of the time, that it just wouldn’t work, even with Microsoft’s WinXP virtual machine.

    There was some talk about third party virtual machines that might work, but once we get to the discussion about shelling out a lot of money to play a 15 year old game… well, it is probably time to let go.

    DOSBox was mentioned in a couple of articles, I might give that a try this weekend.

    I’ll dig around some more today, but that was the state of affairs last night.


  12. SynCaine

    Voted Civ V. Having played it at release and playing it some now, it’s a much better game today, and for me has that perfect Civ balance of being complex yet streamlined.

    The original Colonization would be my second place game; it did a lot of really cool things. Too bad the more recent update was meh.


  13. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Facepalm – I have not tried it, but I saw a long string of comments saying that Win7 XP Mode, which I referred to above as “Microsoft’s XP Virtual Machine,” was not able to run 16-bit apps when used with 64-bit Windows 7.

    I knew I was going to be giving up some compatibility in opting for the 64-bit OS. This might be the first thing I have tried that would totally not run.


  14. Aufero

    Went with Civ V, (post rebalance patch – it’s a much better game now than at launch) but then I never played Civ II. I was working 90+ hours a week when it came out and never got around to it. (Technically, my favorite would be the 1980 board game. Not sure I ever finished a game of that, though.)


  15. Rinvan

    Civ II was one of the few games that could keep me playing to 3 in the morning. Besides the Civ games only the Elder Scrolls & Age of Wonders series ever kept me up that late.


  16. saucelah

    My big memory of Civ 1 is that I lost the instruction manual very early on and forever had to guess as to what two technologies were needed to unlock a given tech, so I could get past the copy protect.

    At least it was multiple choice.


  17. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Facepalm – No worries. It isn’t like you’re the only one who doesn’t know what I mean when I write things.

    @saucelah – Oh, I had forgotten about that copy protection scheme.

    That was one of the things I liked about the original release of Civ II. It came on a CD, which Microprose figured was copy protection enough. CD burners were kind of rare and hard drives were still measured in megabytes back then. Fry’s even had a policy at one point that you couldn’t return software unless it was on CD, because who could pirate something that big.

    I had a later, Gold Edition copy of the game (which I haven’t found yet… and which might be the Mac version now that I think of it) which required the CD to be inserted in order to launch and play the game. (It checked every freakin’ turn if I recall right.)

    I see on eBay that some guy (“allvideo” if you want to find him) who is selling a $50 package that includes a copy of Civ II and a CD that includes some sort of emulation (my guess) that will let you install and play Civ II on Windows 7. Or so he claims. He doesn’t mention 64-bit, but I suppose there is still hope.


  18. Aufero

    I had good luck running several old games with DosBox in WinXP, (it was the only way I could get my original copy of X-COM to run until I bought it again on Steam) but I haven’t tried it yet in 64-bit Win7.


  19. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Over at Civ Fanatics, a site I used to frequent a few years back (I recall winning one of their Civ II game of the month challenges using one of my many handles) there is a thread in the forums about a patch somebody came up with that will allow Civ II to run on Windows 7 or XP 64-bit. The thread is many pages long, too long to read while I eat my lunch at the office.
    The catch is that the patch is only for the Multiplayer Gold Edition (MGE) or Test of Time (ToT) versions of the game. The copy in the picture above is the original release. I might have a copy of the MGE around. I’ll have to see.

    Anywhere, another angle to check out.


  20. Burning Giraffe

    FYI: Even though the downloads for Windows XP Mode & Virtual PC are free, they can’t be run on all 64-bit versions of Windows 7. If I remember right, you have to have the more expensive versions for the download to work, like Professional or Ultimate. And from what I’ve been hearing, even people who do get an XP emulator running haven’t had any luck with Civ II, sux.


  21. Burning Giraffe

    Okay guys, I’ve finally found out a way to get Civ II to play on simple 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium…and it didn’t even involve using an XP mode or virtual machine. There are a few caveats, however: You’ll need the actual disk of Civ !! or Test of Time, so that you can copy the whole thing onto your PC and start messing around with it. You’ll also need a basic unzipping tool in order to unpack archived patches (jZip worked for me). Most of all, be warned that you’ll be converting the entire game into a newer version, the Multiplayer Gold Edition (MGE). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s gameplay is similar…but it won’t be the exact Civ II you remember, and you can probably say goodbye to any saved games or customizations you might have had (unless you’re able to backup their relevant files).

    Cedric Greene has the patches to convert to MGE, in the form of zipped downloads:
    After following his directions, you’ve now upgraded your unusable 16-bit program into something that can run on 64-bit Windows 7. The final patch you’ll then want to use is from MastermindX:
    You may or may not need to also tweak your program compatibility settings, if video or sound issues occur.

    That’s it! I made a desktop shortcut to my new Civ2 Application(.exe) file, and just remember to keep the disk in the machine when I play…and now I’m GOLD!!! (pun intended)


  22. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Yeah, I am pretty much at that point too. I just haven’t done the follow up post on it yet. I just had to get a copy of the MGE, since that patch won’t work on the original release, as I noted in the comment above.


  23. CivPartisan

    Civ II, well I must admit…I still write modpacks every now and again for that little jewel of a game. I miss the good ol’ days when we pined for a Civ III, but really couldn’t let of Civ II. At least I couldn’t. And so there you have it…


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