Several methods have been suggested for random initial positions generation (without a computer). There are two main objectives that need to be addressed :

- All 960 positions must have an equal probability to come
- The method must be simple, ie. easy to memorize and follow and not require special material

Another objective might be the “deterministicness” of the method, ie. no step should require repetitively drawing cards or tossing coins or rolling dice etc until a particular set of outcomes is obtained.

For instance, in order to determine the light-squared bishop’s position, which can be one of b1, d1, f1 or h1 (4 cases), a method might use a die and exclude the numbers 5 and 6, thus interpreting the rolls 1 to 4 as the squares b1 to h1. This method would not be deterministic, since there will be an unknown number of die rolls until a convenient number (ie. 1 to 4) comes up.

Most of the methods require use of dice, coins or playing cards. This stuff is pretty much easy to find. There are also methods that need special types of dice (eg. an octahedron) or special printed cards.

The following methods ensure the objectives mentioned :

- The BOULINA method (deterministic), which uses 8 playing cards
- The 6-card method (deterministic)
- The 8-card method (non-deterministic)