Xanathar's Guide to Everything has a method to determine spell areas with tokens under Spellcasting, p. 87. It says that the method is "meant to make areas of effect tactile and fun":
Using Tokens. Every 5-foot square of an area of effect becomes a die or other token that you place on the grid. Each token goes inside a square, not at an intersection of lines. If an area's token is in a s quare, that s quare is included in the area of effect. It's that simple. Diagrams 2.3 through 2.6 show this method in action, using dice as the tokens (...)
And here are example instructions for laying out the Cone:
Cones. A cone is represented by rows of tokens on the grid, extending from the cone's point of origin. In the rows, the squares are adjoining side by side or corner to corner, as sh own in diagram 2.5. To determine the number of rows a cone contains, divide its length by 5. For example, a 30-foot cone contains six rows. Here's how to create the rows. Starting with a square adjacent to the cone's point of origin, place one token. The square can be orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to the point of origin. In every row beyond that one, place as many tokens as you placed in the previous row, plus one more token. Place this row's tokens so that their squares each hare a side with a square in the previous row. If the cone is orthogonally adjacent to the point of origin, you'll have one more token to place in the row; place it on one end or the other of the row you just created (you don't have to pick the side chosen in diagram 2.5). Keep placing tokens in this way until you've created all of the cone's rows
I have never used this method, and on reading it, it seems eminently impractical to me. Normally you have a lot of little figurines standing around on the battlemat, making it fiddly to place dice in the squares in-between them. You obviously cannot place dice on the squares where you have a figurine, unless you lift it up and place the dice underneath. If you don't, this does not even show you explicitly what squares are affected. If you do, you have to lift off all the figurines, put dice, then put them back, making sure it does not fall off, as many dice are smooth and have somewhat rounded corners.
What's more, this seems to be somewhat time consuming, you have to put down all of these dice, every time you cast a spell. Cast Leomund's Freezing Sphere, a spell with 60 foot radius, and the rules tell you to make a square using the diameter as the length of a side. That is 24 by 24 5-foot squares, or 576 dice you have to put down. And, once the spell has resolved, pick back up. This will make the action slow to a grinding halt of setting down dice.
But, as I have never used this method, I thought I'd ask: has anyone used it in practial play, and what have your experiences been? Is it fast enough in practice, when you mostly cast fireballs and other smaller area spells? Is it indeed fun in your expreince?
Please, no theoretical anwers, I am looking for experience from someone who tried this, or is regularly using it.