Skill Cards in Messina serve a dual purpose. The text on a Card may provide bonuses applicable to battles or to non-military aspects of the game. The stars on a Card may be used to add strength to a battle. When played in battle, Cards are put face-down in front of each battling player, and revealed simultaneously. If the text refers to a bonus applied in battle, this is in addition to the effect of the stars.
Skill Cards come in three categories: Technology, Military and Cryptography. Within each of these categories, Cards range in level from 1 to 5. Each category has a corresponding Track, also ranging from 1 to 5 (left to right), where each faction’s current level for each Skill is indicated by a coloured Civilian piece. To be eligible to pick up a Skill Card, a faction must be at least as high on the relevant Skill Track as the level indicated on the Card.
Factions advance along the Skill Tracks and acquire Skill Cards during the RnD Action (See Section 13.4). Positions on the Technology and Military Tracks may be shared, and a faction always advances by moving up a single space, even if it means multiple factions are then tied at the same level. The position on the Crypto Track is relative, and each position may only be occupied by a single faction: a faction advances on the Crypto track by swapping places with the faction above.
Unless otherwise indicated, the text on a Card ceases to apply once the Card has been played, and the Card remains in a private, faction-specific discard pile. The used Card can only be retrieved with a specific Bonus Military Action, Refresh Tactics, which allows the entire discard pile to be retrieved.
The possession of a particular Skill Card is public knowledge, and Cards held by a player can be inspected by other players except when a Card is directly in the process of being played in battle.