How Good are the Tau Signature Systems? – Part 1

Tau Commander Signature Systems

Signature Systems are the Tau equivalent to Dark Angels Chapter Relics and Chaos Space Marines Artifacts, unique one-per-army items that grant an HQ (mainly) cool, unique abilities.

As with the two 6th Edition Codexes noted above (the Chaos Daemon Codex played it slightly differently), there are Signature Systems tied to a particular Special Character: Commander Shadowsun’s custom XV22 Stealth Battlesuit for example. There is also a list of Signature Systems not tied to a specific named character, but available to any generic XV8 Commander (but not Ethereals) or, curiously, XV8 Bodyguards and a Shas’vre from a regular Crisis Suit team.

The first thing to note is that there is a healthy choice of Signature Systems in the Tau Codex (p. 73 to be exact). Excluding the items associated with Special Characters…

  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines had 6 Artifacts
  • Codex: Dark Angels had 5 Chapter Relics
  • Codex: Chaos Daemons had 4 Hellforged Artefacts
  • Codex: Tau Empire has 8 Signature Systems

For the sake of readability, I’ll discuss four of them now, and four more in a second post.

So, how useful are the…

  1. Command and Control Node
  2. Failsafe Detonator
  3. Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite
  4. Onager Gauntlet


#1 – Command and Control Node

It starts with a slightly less-impressive item. The Command and Control Node allows a character to forgo his own shooting attacks in exchange for granting his unit re-rolls to hit.

It’s a neat idea, but the “model with this wargear does not shoot” clause is a real downer.

Your commander is most likely tooled with some fine weaponry, and it seems a waste for him to not use them, making this a Signature System more appropriate for a bodyguard or Shas’vre.

Still, most weapons that “count” on Crisis Suits (or on Broadsides) are – or can be – twin-linked, often for less than the cost of the Command and Control Node. You might also try to use this on Commander sitting with some Fire Warriors or, better yet, Pathfinders early in the game. Even so, there are better ways to boost these units’ accuracy.

Personally, if that is the kind of ability I’d be looking for, I’d look no further than Shadowsun’s Command and Control Drone. Similar effect, but in a bubble (hence your Riptides, Hammerheads, etc.. could benefit from it) and without the “cannot-shoot” trade-off.

I think I will pass on this one.

#2 – Failsafe Detonator

Pretty much as the name implies. The Failsafe Detonator will have the wearer explode in a large blast if he is slain in the Assault Phase (!). Again, this seems to be a better fit for a bodyguard or Shas’vre, and with AP- it isn’t terribly impressive.

That said, I’ve seen many people use Crisis Suit teams on “suicide mission”, deep-striking into the hot spots of the battle with lots of plasma and melta-weaponry. If you bring a Crisis Team like this, and you have the points to spare in your list, why not literally go out with a bang?!

I like the Failsafe Detonator for the fun-factor alone!

#3 – Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite

The Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite is similar to (and incompatible with) the Command and Control Node. The wearer opts not to shoot, thus granting his unit the ability to ignore cover.

This strikes me as slightly more useful than the Command and Control Node (and it’s slightly more expensive), possibly granting a Crisis Team, a Broadside Team or your Commander to pick off enemies hiding behind a cover (stealth, shrouded, jink, etc…) safe.

Obviously, Markerlights can offer a similar bonus, though the Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite can still be a worthwhile addition against certain opponents… Ravenwing-lists for example.

The Multi-Spectrum Sensor is a bit situational, and not the most awe-inspiring Signature System. However, I can see Tau players getting good mileage from it against unsuspecting opponents.

#4 – Onager Gauntlet

The Onager Gauntlet is, in my humble opinion, the best of the first four Signature Systems discussed here: The Tau Close-Combat Fist!

It’s a hilarious concept. It’s also very cheap. And while it asks you to trade in “all your close-combat attacks” for one massive Tau Shoryuken, that’s not much for a trade for a Tau.. right?

  • It’s useful for smashing vehicles.
  • It’s useful for making your opponent think twice about charging with some 2nd-tier characters (Onager Gauntlet does hit at regular Initiative!).
  • It’s dirt cheap and plain fun.

The only downside is giving up a potential weapon-system. Still, this one … I approve!

#5 – Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Have you tried some of these Signature Systems in your list? Let me know what you think and leave a comment for the Greater Good!




I am Zweischneid. Wargame Addict. Hopeless painter and founder of Pins of War. I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to share your favourite miniature pictures and wargaming videos at
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  • kaptinscuzgob

    fun fact: onager is a species of donkey. thats right, you can give your commander the DONKEY PUNCH

    i like to give the forfeit-your-shooting systems to unit leaders instead of the commander, then have the commander join that unit so that he benefits from them with his awesome BS. and since those things only work during your shooting phase, you can give the bearer of these items a flamer so he can still help out in overwatch. you can only give them one though, so i give them the ignores cover item and deck the rest of the unit out in missile pods & plasma rifles

    • Zweischneid

      No kidding. Just looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s also a roman siege weapon, though that doesn’t make much sense either. Strange naming!

      - Onager (Donkey)

      - Onager (Siege Weapon)

    • disqus_I1VIVQiPZK

      Actually both the C and c node and the multi spec sensor say they CAN be used together

      • kaptinscuzgob

        but only the commander can have both, and using them would waste his BS5

        • disqus_I1VIVQiPZK

          Actually any bodyguard can take any number of SIG systems too so you could give both to a bodyguard and then have your commander fire

      • Zweischneid

        True. Not sure why I read that “can” as “cannot”.

        Seems odd to go out of their way to point out they are compatible, rather than not compatible.

  • shas’kiru

    regarding your opinion on the command and control node not being as good as u say it is….i would have to disagree…i run a farsight and 7 body guard HQ and with adding in a commander into that unit kitted with drone controller, (so all 14 drones fire at BS 5) command and control node to allow there weaponry to become twinlinked (saving you a fudge load of points) and a multi spectrum suite allowing them to ignore cover. using the commander for upgrades to make that OP unit just that little bit more OP :D

  • luke worthington

    actually, the signature systems can just be “taken”. there’s no limit on the number a commander etc. can take nor do they take up the weapon or support systems slots